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The challenges of sustainability education
Journal of Multidisciplinary Research. 3.3 (Fall 2011): p81+.

Sustainability has become a growing imperative in higher education in the United States of America (Calder & Dautremont-Smith, 2009). This paper examines sustainability education as it continues to emerge in the global competitive economy, and traditional and borderless classrooms of the 21st century via educational institutions and public awareness. The authors examine the challenges to sustainability education by looking at how education and institutions have treated and are responding to the challenges of modern global society as related to issues of global justice, environment, survival, human rights, and citizenship that constitute the bedrock ideals from which the rationale for education for sustainability (EFS) emerges. The authors see the problem of defining sustainability and sustainability education as the primary challenge to sustainability education based on the assertion in the literature that there are no agreed upon definitions and this leads to fragmented understanding and diverse practices. Furthermore, secondary challenges to sustainability education are examined to include national- cultural disposition toward sustainability, science literacy, and understanding of the philosophy of science (POS), nature of science (NOS), nature of technology (NOT), and awareness of science and sustainability (AOSS). The authors explore sustainability issues and challenges in higher education, initiatives, and programs in sustainability, and present several examples of colleges and universities as well as social and environmental professional and education organizations involved in and promoting sustainability. The authors describe the design and implementation of sustainability education through "sustainability across the curriculum" construct and the alternative of colleges and universities developing full-fledge degree and other curriculum-related programs in sustainable business and sustainable practices. Finally, the authors provide some recommendations for universities and colleges or institutions of higher education to become truly sustainable communities by using the three guiding pillars of sustainability: flourishing environment, vibrant community, and equitable economy to avoid diminishing resources and enhance sustainability.


philosophy of science (POS), nature of science (NOS), nature of technology (NOT), awareness of science and sustainability (AOSS), education for sustainability (EFS), human value management (HVM), sustainability in education (SIE)

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Clugston and Calder (1999) contend that a concern for sustainability arose in the early seventies as growing numbers of people realized the degradation of the environment would seriously undermine our ability to ensure expanding prosperity and economic justice. However, efforts dedicated to what we exclusively call sustainability today were minimal and embraced by only few private citizens and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). The value decade of the 1990s brought about more definitive and superior understanding of what constitutes value across several platforms and sectors of human life, society, and activities. A common understanding of value most predominantly attached to economics and marketing is expanded to include human value and organizational value considerations along the line of people and the various approaches developed in meeting our needs and wants as well as an understanding of value concept in services that have dominated the global economy for the past two and a half decades in the form of human value management (Fit-Enz, 1990), value driven management (Pohlman & Gardiner, 2000), and superior customer value (Johnson & Weinstein, 2004).

These models conceptualized across organizational leadership and managerial roles provided a platform for the reorientation of the interdependency-model approach to creative activities and decision making that brought more clarity to the increasing relationship between people and their environment and the resources that go into the productive processes we engage in for survival. Scarcity generalized in economic theory was given a more viable value-orientation linked to human actions and behaviors that facilitate our ability to impact our own productive and consumptive limitations based on the idea that we have more influence on perpetuating scarcity than we originally were able to understand. Thus, the idea of sustainability re-emerged with a broader definition than simply caring for the environment and conserving natural resources, essentially becoming an umbrella philosophy encompassing the economy, social life, culture, politics, and social order through educational awareness and the ability to effectively manage and plan for sustainable change.

The quest to increase human value through human value management (HVM), via effectiveness and efficiency through value driven management (VDM) of services and goods to customers by designing and delivering superior customer value (SCV) created the mindset needed to revisit the idea of sustainability to continue growth and prosperity in all areas of modern development. Additionally, experiences over the last two decades (1990-2010) have been rather traumatic in terms of environmentally related disasters, which brought about a resurgence of a realization of the interdependence of humankind and its environment through our choices and decisions. The sheer impact of our actions on climate, environmental pollution, deforestation, and other environmentally unfriendly practices that certainly in many cases, and potentially in others, have decreased and affected our abilities and opportunities to produce and provide more for an even greater human population. Environmental activism has created a Green Revolution that has become not only a new ideological movement for entrepreneurs but also a new frontier on which those challenging contemporary society and its systems of governance, economy, and social order can launch their platforms in a justifiable and universally-oriented fashion based on the ideal of common good and categorical imperative bound in the need to secure our planet's future for the survival of all living things.

The perspective expressed by the authors above is supported by Yanarella, Levine, and Lancaster (2009) as they agree that "In an age of mounting finite resource scarcities, rapid climate change, and continuing global population growth, combined with the growing clamor for Western-style economic development, the sustainability movement is not going to go away" (p. 296). In fact, the sustainability movement is gaining momentum as our production possibilities frontiers or transformation margins narrow with declining resources and increasing constraints from factors other than scarcity. We must now, more than ever before, become educated and aware of our surroundings and the interrelatedness of our environment and socioeconomic activities as they affect our ability to progress and survive as a species--providing for our contemporary needs and wants while not destroying the prospects for future generations. Recognizing the collective impact of our individual and community actions and activities on our ability to sustain and improve current living standards, economic growth, and development, while conserving resources for the future and decreasing depletion rates, sustainability education is highly needed and is emerging prominent among colleges and universities as part of their curriculums, especially as tied to business and science. While there are many examples of sustainability education in terms of programs and approaches present in educational and social institutions across society, some primary and secondary challenges make sustainability education philosophy and operationalization difficult in general, and specifically, for some institutions more than others. Furthermore, despite the current and ongoing preoccupation with sustainability, "most college and university students still receive little or no exposure to sustainability within their academic coursework, and there are few rewards for faculty who integrate sustainability themes into their teaching" (Calder & Dautremont-Smith, 2009, p. 95).

Understanding Current Challenges to Sustainability Education

Some educators and layperson citizens are only recently beginning to think about sustainability as it pertains to our relationship with our environment, our resources, and our overall well-being, progress, and survival. Nevertheless, sustainability education occupies a small part of overall educational pedagogy across fields and spectrum of knowledge, thought, and learning. Most poignant to this claim is the recognition that among ordinary citizens, sustainability has little or no meaning. Thus, it becomes imperative that education for sustainability (EFS) and sustainability in education (SIE) become part of our regular public school systems, and even become part of the general education curriculums of colleges and universities. Learning about sustainability is essential in changing our current mindset that endangers our survival and that of our planet. It seems there is a race against time to perhaps preserve what has not been damaged already and to repair what can be repaired as far as environmental damages are concerned in order to ensure their sustainability. While sustainability generally is focused on environmental issues, human life and the economy are much a part of sustainability as we grapple with problems and challenges that threaten our quality of life, ability to feed and clothe a growing population, respond to natural and human-made disasters, and prevent and treat diseases and related problems.

The challenges to sustainability education are both natural and socially-imposed because of our nature as individuals and groups, our social, cultural, economic, and political-legal systems, and our differing perspectives arising out of these factors coupled with our unique individual views. On a collective or societal level, we are hampered by political economy and governmental policies and actions, and in some cases inaction, especially in democratic and command systems in which free will depends on majority vote and minority power. On an individual level, we often feel overwhelmed enough with the difficulties of our own lives, and this leaves us helpless when we think about the possibility of taking on problems at the global level (Andrzejewski & Alessio, 1999). Education and culture are two major factors that affect our inclination toward sustainability as individuals and society. Our education system has not necessarily been designed to embrace the sustainability challenge, but rather to address economic and wealth issues, and education generally has been subordinate in its function to the power and desire of those who are the major benefactors of resource overexploitation, excess consumption, and mass production that affect our environment. Culture, in many cases, praises the superiority of humankind over the natural and wild life worlds, and this has been contradictory to sustainable practices and worldviews.

Our understanding of sustainability also depends on our appreciation of science and our knowledge of science, scientific and technological literacy, understanding of the nature of science (NOS) and awareness of science (AOS), nature of technology (NOT), and economy and politics. We are living in a highly technological society, and our appreciation for and understanding of technology surpasses that of any previously recorded civilizations and generations insofar as we know. This same technological-orientation blinds us to the natural relationship and interaction we previously enjoyed with nature before we became technology's children. Additionally, while science literacy, or scientific literacy, has led to further and deeper understanding of nature and its processes, it also has contributed to a mechanistic worldview in many senses and has desensitized many to the social side of science and the true ideology of cyclical interdependence existing and defining all living and non-living things as related.

Defining Sustainability and Sustainability Education: The Primary Challenge

Sustainability practices depend firmly on understanding what sustainability entails and on what constitutes education for sustainability and sustainability education. In any field of study, it is important to understand the meaning and purpose or rationale for that field, and sustainability regarded as an emerging field of study is no different from others when it comes to this fundamental prerequisite. Those embracing sustainability as an ideology or worldview, and those teaching sustainable practices as educators, must comprehend what it entails as well as the theoretical and practical frameworks for espousing sustainability. Sustainability can mean many different things to different people; therefore, it is extremely important to understand the concept in its many perspectives and scope. Some individuals and institutions pursue sustainability as a narrow concept focused on growing green, while others see sustainability in the way it is best pursued: as an all-encompassing concept, a perspective which the authors of this paper embrace.

What We Mean by Sustainability

The primary challenge in positing and implementing a sustainability perspective or approach to value creation in organizations lies in appropriately defining sustainability, as this affects the underlying philosophy that organizations use to achieve sustainability mission and goals. Practitioners define sustainability both narrowly as the long-term protection and health of the natural environment, and broadly as the triple bottom line of environmental health, economic viability, and social well-being (Calder & Dautremont-Smith, 2009, p. 93). The major challenge in defining sustainability stems from a lack of agreement in the literature, and the fact that sustainability is a broad and far-reaching, even all-encompassing concept that fosters a variety of views and perspectives. Yanarella, Levine, and Lancaster (2009) agree with this as they relate: "The sustainability movement from the grassroots to the global level has been both enriched and hobbled by the many different versions of sustainability articulated in scholarly and popular writings, town hall forums, and international conferences" (p. 296). As a result, the first determination in making sustainability education a focus or reality in educational and social institutions is to communicate adequately an understanding of sustainability specific to organizational mission and vision, or general enough to encompass sustainability in all contexts.

Sustainability is much deeper than environmentalism or "greening," despite the tendency to examine it in these terms (Cloud, 2010). Sustainability can be defined as a process that organizes human activity so society, its members, and its economies are able to meet their needs and express their greatest potential in the present as well as the future (West Chester University of Pennsylvania, 2011a).

According to the World Commission on Environment and Development (1987), sustainability means meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. William McDonough & Partners (1992) state that the concept of sustainability has been introduced to combine concern for the well-being of the planet with continued growth and human development, and was originally defined from the human point of view. However, in order to embrace the idea of a global ecology with intrinsic value (the value models described above should come back to mind), the meaning of sustainability has to be expanded to allow all parts of nature to meet their own needs now and in the future (William McDonough & Partners, 1992). Sustainability means going green, engaging more actively in environmental and wildlife conservation, using more environmentally friendly resources, and being more socially responsible toward the environment and communities in which we operate, among other things.

There are several other important definitions of sustainability. The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (2011) defines sustainability in an inclusive way, encompassing human and ecological health, social justice, secure livelihoods, and a better world for all generations. Miller (2007) defines sustainability as the ability of earth's various systems, including human cultural systems and economies, to survive and adapt to changing environmental conditions indefinitely. Sustainability also can be defined scientifically as a dynamic state in which global ecological and social systems are not systematically undermined (Second Nature, 2011c). According to the Izaak Walton League of America (2011), sustainability means "Thriving people in a livable world; people everywhere being able to live a quality life without sacrificing the natural resources that future generations will depend on" (p. 1).

Sustainability Education and Education for Sustainability

One of the major challenges to sustainability is education. This stems from the fact that education rarely challenges the prevailing paradigms and interests of national governments, wealthy elites, or dominant groups, or corresponding economic or political systems. Andrzejewski and Alessio (1999) believe there might be an inherent conflict between education for social responsibility that leads to practices such as sustainability and education for economic purposes such as jobs and marketability. This is indeed part of the problem, as we have not been educated and are not educating for sustainability, but for economic growth and wealth accumulation. Because of this longstanding approach to education without concern for sustainability and the lack of a sustainability cultural-basis or orientation, we now are challenged to address problems that could have been prevented.

According to West Chester University (2011c), our planet faces unprecedented environmental, social, and economic crises, and we all are being challenged to make dramatic changes not only in our knowledge and values but also in our culture and institutions, and Education for Sustainability is a major approach in responding to this challenge. West Chester University (2011c) defines EFS in the following way.

  Education for sustainability (EFS) is a rapidly emerging field that
  is guided by a vision of a sustainable society and rooted in a
  simple truth: we learn what we live. EFS practitioners are trained
  professionals who understand the challenge of sustainability and
  who have been prepared to teach others, to catalyze institutional
  and cultural change, and to model sustainable ways of living (p. 1).

EFS engenders a new ideology of caring, not only for the environment or nature but also for the people around us and our own well-being in terms of the quality of life, our modes of production and consumption, and how the decisions we make and activities we engage in affect these. According to the Cloud Institute for Sustainability Education (2010), EFS is defined as a transformative learning process that equips students, teachers, and school systems with new knowledge and ways of thinking needed to achieve economic prosperity and responsible citizenship while restoring the health of the living systems upon which our lives depend.

EFS prepares individuals to recognize the important challenge of attaining sustainability as an economic and social imperative and how to become active participants who embrace sustainable practices and teach others how to become sustainability advocates and citizens. This relates highly to the concepts of organizational and global citizenship behaviors emerging mainly from the idea of an integrated and global society where overlapping concerns for business and environment lead to efforts in adapting to change. These involve engaging in behaviors and actions that are essentially altruistic and inclusive in their impacts on our own survival and progress and those of others, through a collective effort typical of team citizenship behavior (TCB) present in many organizations today. Team citizenship behavior (TCB) can be defined as behavior within an organization or institution and team setting characterizing how individuals adapt and utilize their behaviors as well as group-oriented considerations in being a good member of a team or essentially a citizen of a "country" called a team within the organizational world. Team citizenship behavior then, describes behaviors that exhibit good citizenship within team or among members working in a team and consists of the following behaviors among others: (a) altruism, (b) civic virtue, (c) conscientiousness, (d) courtesy, (e) teamwork, and (f) team mindedness (Pearce & Herbik, 2004, p. 293).

The five categories of global citizens identified by Falk (1994)--global reformers, elite global business people, global environmental managers, politically conscious regionalists, and transnational activists--are active agents in promoting sustainability as a global new perspective in business and education, the authors main concerns. According to the Institute for Global Citizenship at Macalester College (2011), global citizenship provides a framework for addressing several problems and challenges in the 21st century. This stems from three important or core elements embedded in the concept.

  First, it is based on an ethical claim that all human beings are
  ultimately members of a single moral community and that,
  as such, they have certain rights, responsibilities and duties.
  Second, it involves a judgment that this community faces a
  number of challenges that are increasingly global in character
  (including, but not limited to, environmental degradation,
  human rights violations, migration, poverty, social exclusion,
  economic exploitation, political violence, disease, humanitarian
  emergencies, and various "democratic deficits"), but that manifest
  themselves in distinctive ways in specific national/local contexts.
  Finally, it entails a conviction that addressing these challenges
  will ultimately require both an acceptance of our global ethical
  responsibilities and the development of institutional structures
  through which these responsibilities can be exercised at the
  transnational, national and local levels (p. 1).

Sustainability education requires institutions, both academic and non-academic, to engage in the process of educating and informing their members and organizational citizens about the challenge of sustainability as one of the major challenges of the global 21st century (Lagos, 2011; Andrzejewski, 1996).

From an educational perspective "Sustainability implies that the critical activities of a higher education institution are ecologically sound, socially just and economically viable, and that they will continue to be so for future generations" (Association of University Leaders for a Sustainable Future, 2011, p. 1). Many institutions lack the factors and resources conducive to active engagement with nature and must solely rely on practicing sustainable intellect by imparting theoretical knowledge and conducting academic research. By factors and resources conducive to promoting sustainability, we mean natural environment, funding, expert and knowledgeable faculty and administrators, and other incentives driving sustainability education, which is still in its early stage of development (Calder & Dautremont-Smith, 2009).

Secondary Challenges to Sustainability Education

While the primary challenge to sustainability education involves understanding and defining sustainability with regard to scope and perspective, other challenges emerge within the context of recognizing that sustainability not only can constitute a worldview but also can be affected by our sociocultural values and attitudes as well as how we view science and technology. While general literacy means we are able to read, write, and think logically and rationally, this does not mean we have acquired the prerequisites for understanding the sustainability challenge in order to develop practices that can be characterized as sustainability-driven. Other factors such as cultural disposition, science literacy, understanding of the philosophy of science (POS), nature of science (NOS), nature of technology (NOT), and awareness of science and sustainability (AOSS) matter. These are described below.

National-Cultural Disposition toward Sustainability

One of the fundamental prerequisites for making education an effective vehicle for sustainability is what the authors call national-cultural disposition toward sustainability. When we think of sustainability, at its roots there is recognition that culture, in terms of the values and attitudes of a people influencing their behaviors and actions in economic and social activities, in part will determine to what degree we will collectively value and embrace sustainability as fundamental to the quality of present and future generations. U.S. culture, on a whole, can be characterized as a high mass consumption, mass-production culture with excessive spending and high wastage of resources. This has been the disposition after the country's extravagant economic growth following the Second World War and the further development of technology and manufacturing. Culturally, people in the U.S. are used to bigger, but not necessarily better, products and production methods, and processes have in the past adapted themselves to producing and manufacturing the bulk or excess that unfortunately defines success and the American Dream for a majority. Thus, it is culturally difficult to adapt sustainability practices and foster sustainability education on a prominent national level, especially when levels of education or literacy are already low across some groups and communities.

It could be argued that the U.S., more than most countries, is highly engaged in bettering environment practices, researching, discovering, and applying new and cleaner energy sources, and promoting programs and policies related to sustainability as an umbrella concept. While this is true in many ways, it must not be forgotten that people in the U.S. consume far greater resources than most of the world's nations and produce far more waste including environmental pollutants and mechanical industrial wastes. Thus, the role of the nation should be significantly greater than many of its counterparts in the sustainability movement and promotion of sustainability education as a vitally important matter to the nation's ongoing progress and future well-being. When sustainability is tied to cultural patterns, it becomes a natural practice that people engage in throughout their daily and progressive lives. Thus, cultural disposition toward sustainability requires a culture that values the environment, and decisively focuses on integrating and emphasizing the interdependent relationship between humankind and nature through customs, stories, folklores, legends, and the like. A culture of sustainability or sustainability culture is one that reveres and values nature. In fact, the first and early Americans or American Indians represented one of the world's greatest examples of sustainability cultures as they not only worshipped nature but also saw themselves as an intimate and small part of what constituted life as nature interacting in and of itself to create the life processes and numerous cycles that define our planet. The arrival of the Europeans was the first great factor in the disruption of this sustainability culture, which was changed forever because they misunderstood the natives' relationship with and reverence of nature as well as its occurrences as paganism and religious animism. They failed to see this as wisdom displayed in understanding the interrelationship and interdependence of living and non-living systems, which unfortunately evaded their value system concept of a civilized culture.

Andrzejewski and Alessio (1999) feel that teachers are not prepared to help their students develop the global consciousness needed to support human rights and ecological sustainability in our modern global society. This is a problem not only in U.S. society but also across the globe. Specific to the authors' foregone claim of people in the U.S. not being culturally disposed toward sustainability practices and education, support is provided by Andrzejewski and Alessio (1999) who argue the following.

  Our educational experiences did not provide us with the information
  and tools to understand what is happening in the world, how it
  affects our lives, the lives of others and the planet itself.
  We were not taught how we, as ordinary (non-rich) people,
  might live our lives and actively participate in creating a
  safer, more humane, sustainable world (p. 1).

The U.S. experience indeed has been one built heavily on industrial and political-economic dominance, rather than close identification and relationship with and to nature and its maintenance. This has been true especially of the post-World War II generations who were introduced to rapidly evolving industrial and manufacturing technology that had little regard and consideration for environmentalism and efficient resource usage. Only recently, as much as a decade ago, have sustainability and environmentalism regained importance in U.S. society as scarcity of some resources became more pressing and apparent.

As a nation, the United States of America is challenged by an underperforming education system that has been undergoing various types of reforms since the 1980s and with little success. What is needed is a complete cultural revolution that will redesign the philosophy and sociology of education. This will make sustainability as well as other important collective endeavors part of our knowledge systems including the skills we develop to address societal problems and challenges. UNESCO (2011), for example, proposes a restructuring of educational systems to accomplish this cultural change: "Rethinking and revising education from nursery school through university to include a clear focus on the development of knowledge, skills, perspectives and values related to sustainability is important to current and future societies" (p. 1). While the education systems of nations seem to hold the key to sustainability education and the success of sustainability initiatives, Benit, Bernstein, Cipolla, and Norcio (2010) argue that "countries have distinctive legal, cultural, and ethical codes that impact what a saleable product can contribute" (p. 31), and sustainability seen from this transactional perspective will be only as successful and well-embraced as the contributions it potentially can make to metrics such as standard of living, economic growth, wealth, gross domestic product, gross national product, and overall national well-being.

Science Literacy: The Philosophy of Science (POS) and Nature of Science (NOS)

Science literacy or scientific literacy has preoccupied a great part of our modern knowledge and education. Through science, we have developed our modern societies into robust technological systems that are able to exert greater influence over nature and life. The philosophy of science and nature of science have become lenses through which we can more clearly see and understand our world and the systems, processes, and people around us. A firm understanding of the philosophy of science, the contexts in which the theories and concepts of science are analyzed and clarified (Losee, 2001), becomes essential in understanding sustainability in terms of its rationale, its underlying theoretical framework, and its disposition and role in modern society. However, only relatively few among even the most educated in today's society understand the philosophy of science. Thus, the philosophy of science, as it affects debates and acceptance of issues and problems in science, affects the degree to which sustainability is embraced and practiced by different stakeholders.

While the philosophy of science deals with the contexts in which the concepts and theories of science are analyzed and clarified, an appreciable understanding of the nature of science affects perspectives and acceptance of sustainability and the green revolution. The nature of science refers to the way in which science and scientific knowledge lend themselves to our understanding and recognition of basic concepts, constructs, and processes in nature. The nature of science is such that it lends itself to only so much and so many of our opinions, views, and perspectives, ideologies, and disposition to understand the challenges we face in terms of their origins and cause, and most definitively, how we approach resolving them. The nature of science is difficult to comprehend, especially for those lacking knowledge about the scientific method and for those who have come to understand science only as a mechanistic discipline. This lack of understanding can lead to an under-appreciation of the sustainability challenges we face, the kind of support we receive in embracing sustainability as essential to our quality of life, standard of living, and progress and survival for us and future generations.

The level of science literacy in a society affects understanding and appreciation of the philosophy of science and nature of science (Hodson, 2011). This, in turn, helps to determine how well individuals are prepared to practice and support sustainability. Sustainability requires first and foremost being able to learn about science, even if an individual does not learn science. When individuals learn about science and its usefulness, they are better able to see where issues fit into their schema of experience and how they can access the appropriate channels of resources to address these (Hodson, 2011, 2003).

Nature of Technology (NOT)

The nature of technology is such that it requires us to understand the nature of science as together they function to affect our science and environmental literacy levels and responses. According to Hodson (2011), in modern society, the understanding of the nature of technology is as deficient as the understanding of the nature of science. Hodson (2011) believes that students, for example, often see technology solely in terms of computers, televisions and mobile phones, and emphasize the products of technology to the virtual exclusion of technology as a creative and socially embedded practice, and see technology primarily as applied science. As a result, many are unaware of the relationship between science and technology as they create challenges that we face in meeting our needs and wants; sustainability being one of these challenges.

The nature of technology depends highly on cultural attachments to mechanistic and automated ways of doing things and this can affect the degree to which technological embrace act as a barrier to fully appreciating the social interrelationships of natural things; that is, nature and the various cyclical and socially interdependent relationships between people, processes, systems and the ideological perspectives that drive them. Essentially, mechanism and automation affect inclination and orientation toward sustainability. The machine children of contemporary and future societies may lack the aesthetics to appreciate fully the intimate relationships required to foster a reasonable, sensible, and meaningful understanding of sustainability. Given this potential obstacle to sustainability practices and endorsement, it becomes very essential for colleges and universities to design curriculums and strategies to enhance or change students' views of technology, and Hodson (2011) agrees that students' views of technology can be changed quite substantially by curriculum interventions that are not focused on the nature of technology alone.

Awareness of Science and Sustainability (AOSS)

Students and citizens do not necessarily need to understand the nature of science, philosophy of science, science literacy, and nature of technology to appreciate the sustainability concept and challenge even though such knowledge leads to broader understanding and ability to engage sustainable practices. According to UNESCO (2011), sustainable development requires widespread community education and a responsible media committed to encouraging an informed and active citizenry. Those who are not involved formally in education are able to learn about our global, international, regional, and national environmental, economic, and social challenges through various media including radio and television. Additionally, discussion by fellow citizens and daily events and lifestyles are factors from which individuals can become aware about sustainability.

In today's emerging Green Economy, we are using and are being introduced to new and emerging products based on sustainability concepts, constructs, and design practices. For example, biodiesel fuel, and electric and hybrid cars are some of our current products that are changing our individual attitudes and bringing us directly and indirectly into the sustainability realm. Without specific knowledge and understanding of science or its methods, many of us are already aware of the relationship between humankind and the environment. Therefore, our common sense experiences can act as stimuli for learning about sustainability. Oppositely, there are many who lack the fundamental awareness of science and sustainability required to even begin understanding what "going green" is about and why we must "go green" and care for nature and the environment that are neither alive in the sense that we are, or will perish as we do because of our mortality. To many who are unaware of science and sustainability as active concepts in our daily and ongoing lives, sustainability is neither a concern nor a matter to become preoccupied with, especially given our daily personal struggles and problems.

Role of Business Schools and Colleges in Sustainability Education

Sustainability seems more naturally related to natural science disciplines given their understanding of nature and its processes and the fact that they predominantly study and affect life processes and nature through their theories, experiments and inventions. However, sustainability falls equally within the domain of business and economics and the responsibility of business schools and colleges as the major creators of the productive and consumptive leadership, management and operational ideas and processes that act as stressors to survival, progress, and the ability to maintain economic growth and development while preserving and conserving natural and human resources for posterity. Business schools and colleges have a major responsibility in creating leaders for 21st century global business organizations (Mujtaba, Cavico, & McFarlane, 2010) because business schools and colleges are a major force both as globalizing influences and trend setters in value and industry practices (McFarlane, Mujtaba, & Cavico, 2009). As such, business schools shape our economy, the practices, and the processes we pursue for survival. These efforts at survival ultimately affect our environment, quality of life, and resources usages that constitute sustainability challenges, by virtue of the various decisions made by entrepreneurs and consumers.

Business schools and colleges currently are not doing enough, while some simply are not doing anything to promote sustainability education as part of their curricula. Amazingly, some of the most well-known and largest business schools and colleges in the United States are yet to consider integrating sustainability concepts in teaching business. Business, management, financial and economic education underpins the many transactions or exchanges we engage in to satisfy needs and wants, and it is these very exchanges that affect resource bottom line and availability, usage and distribution. Thus, teaching the future entrepreneur and corporate leader how to effectively and efficiency manage and control business processes and activities requires teaching business sustainability. Calder and Dautremont-Smith (2009) contend that apart from the field of law, the most promising trends are seen in business and business schools because an increasing number of business programs are offering courses related to ethics, corporate social responsibility, sustainability, or business and society.

Examples of Sustainability Education in Action

We are only now becoming aware that " ... education needs to focus on sharing knowledge, skills, values and perspectives throughout a lifetime of learning in such a way that it encourages sustainable livelihoods and supports citizens to live sustainable lives" (UNESCO, 2011, p. 1). Sustainability has become an important concern for several major stakeholders across public and private sector organizations. Many institutions including private business organizations, colleges and universities, and social and professional membership organizations are becoming active in promoting and teaching sustainability as a wise and sensible approach to managing and using resources effectively and efficiently. As sustainability education and awareness increase, even more people and organizations will find it mandatory to consider this issue and to embrace its new movement.

While the trend toward sustainability seem to be on the rise, some writers are concerned that the hype does not represent fairly the number of people who truly are aware of and are willing to embrace the sustainability perspective as necessary to begin attitudinal changes leading to actions and behaviors that make the needed differences in our quality of life, progress, and the health of our planet. Andrzejewski and Alessio (1999), for example, argue that global issues can seem immensely depressing and insurmountable, thereby leading people to believe we can have little or no influence on them. This attitude prevailing among many people leads to differing perspectives on contemporary global sustainability challenges such as industrial pollution, deforestation, and other critical issues affecting a sustainable balance of life on our planet.

Examples of College and Universities: Higher Education

Many colleges and universities are becoming major players in the sustainability movement and promotion of sustainability education. The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (2011c) believes higher education plays a vital role in ensuring people have an understanding of the interdependencies between environmental, social, and economic forces, and the skills and abilities to meet sustainability challenges. The rationale for sustainability in higher education is best expressed by the Association of University Leaders for a Sustainable Future (2011a):

  Higher education is beginning to recognize the
  need to reflect the
  reality that humanity is affecting the environment
  in ways which are historically unprecedented and which
  are potentially devastating for both natural
  ecosystems and ourselves.
  Since colleges and universities are
  an integral part of the global economy and since
  they prepare most of the professionals who develop,
  manage and teach in society's public,
  private and non-governmental institutions,
  they are uniquely positioned to influence the
  direction we choose to take as a society.
  As major contributors to the values, health and
  well being of society, higher education
  has a fundamental responsibility to teach,
  train and do research for sustainability.
  We believe that the success of higher
  education in the twenty-first
  century will be judged by our ability to put
  forward a bold agenda that makes sustainability and the
  environment a cornerstone of academic practice (p. 1).

The quest for sustainability has become a major force driving practices and philosophies in many higher educational institutions. Calder and Dautremont-Smith (2009) believe colleges and universities across the United States increasingly are practicing sustainability in campus operations by using energy conservation, renewable energy, recycling, and other projects to promote and address sustainability. This is demonstrated in the activities and programs of several institutions listed below. While there is a great increase in the number of colleges and universities embracing sustainability and sustainability education, several have emerged as very strong trendsetters in this new pedagogy and philosophy.

Northland College: Northland College is known and recognized nationally for its exceptional dedication to sustainability, especially in the areas of environmentalism, energy, and conservation and has been cited in science texts and literature for its role in promoting sustainability in education. Miller (2007) cites Northland College as an example of educational-academic institutions engaging sustainability as a way of life. In fact, the college styles itself as "The Environmental Liberal Arts College," and its strategic location provides the most conducive physical and natural environment for sustainability programs and engagements. Northland College has a broad perspective on sustainability. According to Northland College (2011), sustainability is all about people, and the College adheres to the belief that environmental change requires more than technical knowledge of renewable energy, ecosystems, and sustainable business practices; it demands an exploration of human nature, an exploration of ourselves. Thus, Northland makes a focus on environmental leadership throughout the student experience and education an essential part of its curriculum.

Northland College easily can be referred to as a sustainability institution because its dedication and initiatives on sustainability are exceptional and encompass all aspects of the College's endeavors and mission. Some examples of sustainability initiatives at Northland include green and energy buildings such as the College's Dexter Library, The McLean Environmental Living and Learning Center, and the Strawbale Energy Demonstration Lab. Other activities in which Northland engages the sustainability vision and ideal include food systems and composting, conservation and recycling, sustainable landscaping, and purchasing and transportation (Northland College, 2011). Northland makes sustainability education an encompassing part of the college's curriculum and offers courses such as Sustainable Business, Introduction to Environmental Studies, Sustainable Agriculture, a Physics course in Renewable Energy, and Natural Resources (Northland College, 2011). Northland is a member and partner of several sustainability and environmental organizations and initiatives, and its Environmental Council engages both students and community in embracing sustainability as a way of life.

University of Wisconsin Oshkosh: The University of Wisconsin Oshkosh (UWO) is one of several state universities embracing sustainability and making it a priority education matter, and it has been engaged in sustainability initiatives for a decade since 2002. UWO's innovations in sustainability and renewable energy, such as reducing consumption and waste, instituting green building, and purchasing 100 percent recycled products have been integrated throughout the University's campus and the community as part of its dedication to sustainability (University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, 2011). The University is considered a national leader in sustainability because of environmental stewardship, teaching, outreach, research and assessment activities and programs in the field.

At the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, green building has become part of its sustainability initiative with several projects constructed in accordance with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards. LEED is a certification system developed along with other standards by the U.S. Green Building Council. Green buildings at UWO include the Student Recreation and Wellness Center, South Campus Parking Ramp, Student Success Center, and Sage Hall (University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, 2011). One of the pioneering works in sustainability at UWO is the implementing of a dry fermentation anaerobic biodigester system, as part of UWO's quest to create a better environment for the campus and local communities. The plant functions to lengthen the lifespan of landfills, increase capacity at compost sites, and decrease energy consumption and cost of moving waste (University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, 2011). The university has received several awards and recognition for its sustainability efforts and programs.

Like Northland College, the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh has an environment in which it can readily engage sustainability practices. UWO's 171-acre campus is located along Wisconsin's Fox River and a few blocks away from Lake Winnebago, the largest body of water in the state. These provide opportunities for projects related to water consumption, fresh water conservation, and the reduction of solid and other wastes that contaminate water supply and affect wildlife and fisheries. UWO has introduced measures that reduce the amount of energy consumption, reducing solid waste through recycling, researching, and implementing alternative fuels, and purchasing green materials in all dining facilities (University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, 2011). The university also rigorously pursues efforts dedicated to conserving use of electricity through solar initiatives.

West Chester University of Pennsylvania: West Chester University of Pennsylvania (WCU) is an example of a state university institution seriously embracing and promoting sustainability as a vital part of university function. According to West Chester University of Pennsylvania (2011b) "West Chester University recognizes that one of the most significant challenges facing humanity is achieving a sustainable society" (p. 1). The university believes that accomplishing a sustainable society requires depends on our ability to organize human activity so that society, its members and its economies are able to meet their needs and express their greatest potential in the present as well as the future. As such, WCU believes it, along with other higher educational institutions in the United States and across the globe, must play a vital role in reducing the ecological impact of human social and economic activities, and it must promote research and service that foster regional and global sustainability.

West Chester University's major goal is to achieve national and global recognition as a leader in the implementation of green technologies, sustainable energy, and the reduction of our carbon footprint (West Chester University, 2011b). WCU seeks to be identified as a leading university in which the environmental theme permeates all of the university's operations in relation to curriculum as well as everyday actions. Some examples of programs and activities at WCU to meet its sustainability commitments and ambitions include the application of renewable energy, incorporating significant energy-saving features in both new and renovated facilities, transitioning much of the campus from heating and cooling with coal and oil to using geothermal energy, and ensuring graduates, regardless of majors, have an understanding of sustainability. This is an excellent approach, and many colleges and universities should emulate this as part of the broad-spectrum need for sustainability education in our global society.

West Chester University administers and leads its sustainability efforts through its advisory arm, The Sustainability Advisory Council, formerly the Environmental Council, which promotes and provides oversight for sustainability issues at WCU (West Chester University, 2011b). The Sustainability Advisory Council at WCU has a five-fold function: (1) providing campus-based research and teaching opportunities; (2) promoting sustainability in the academic curriculum; (c) advocating for environmentally friendly facilities and procurement initiatives; (d) enhancing campus aesthetics in an ecologically sound manner; and (e) sharing data and engaging the community (p. 1). Sustainability has been integrated into a number of courses offered at WCU, and certificate programs are offered across several departments and disciplines. For example, biology, chemistry, environmental health, geography and planning, ecology, geology, astronomy and physics, and political science as well as education are some departments at WCU that embrace and teach the concept of sustainability. Among these, the most prominent is the Education for Sustainability program.

Bainbridge Graduate Institute (BGI): The Bainbridge Graduate Institute is located in Seattle, Washington, and represents one of few emerging business schools and colleges focused on sustainability education and practices. According to Bainbridge Graduate Institute (2011), major companies and entrepreneurial ventures are more than ever before securing competitive advantage and success by embracing sustainability through environmental and social responsibility as a core business strategy. Bainbridge Graduate Institute offers Master of Business Administration (MBA) and Certificate programs that focus on sustainability. According to Bainbridge Graduate Institute (2011), "The Green Economy now represents more than $230 billion annually in sales of socially and environmentally responsible products and $2.2 trillion in investments" (p. 1). This provides great incentives for not only business organizations but also educational institutions, especially business schools and colleges to embrace this new economy concept and its resulting opportunities by designing, developing, and implementing programs that focus on sustainability practices or that capitalize on the "green movement."

McFarlane, Mujtaba, and Cavico (2009) have emphasized the importance of 21st century business schools and colleges taking new outlook toward the future, and leading effectively by adapting to changes, and one of the most prolific changes that will affect their curricula and instructional practices is the "Green Economy" represented in the sustainability movement. BGI's industry-guiding curriculum integrates sustainability into all the courses offered and prepares students to create positive change through innovation and entrepreneurship (Bainbridge Graduate Institute, 2011). This approach can be called "Sustainability across the Curriculum," which the authors further discuss below. BGI's MBA program strives to provide students with the attributes, knowledge, and competencies required of leaders transforming present economic system toward sustainability, and BGI also offers a Certificate in Sustainable Business.

Examples of Educational and Social Organizations for Sustainability

There are many organizations involved in promoting sustainability across the natural physical environment and human communities, and social and economic activities. The majority of these organizations are traditional environmental conservationist and activist organizations, while the newest types are those dedicated to sustainability education and the advocacy of new energy sources, solutions, and systems. According to Cloud (2010), Education for Sustainability was born officially in 1992 in Chapter 36 of Agenda 21, the international agreement to move toward sustainability signed by every country in the world at a United Nations (UN) Summit in Rio de Janeiro. Since then, it has emerged as a cause championed by numerous educational and social organizations. To these organizations, Educating for Sustainability is not just a theoretical construct; it is a search for practical-mandatory solutions to maintain as well as improve the quality of life and standard of living with a balanced respect for nature, all living systems, natural cycles, and the future.

Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE): The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education's mission is to empower higher education to lead the sustainability transformation. The AASHE is a member-driven, independent 501(c)(3) organization that provides support and strategic resources to help create more opportunities for all by advancing sustainability in higher education. The AASHE strives to create a diverse community engaged in sharing ideas and promising practices and provides administrators, faculty, staff, and students, as well as the business organizations that serve them, with thought leadership and essential knowledge resources, opportunities for professional development, and a unique framework for demonstrating the value and competitive edge created by sustainability initiatives (Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, 2011a).

The goals of the AASHE are to (1) deliver services that increase its value to a growing and diverse membership and will increase its impact on sustainability in higher education; (2) convene experts and collect, evaluate, and disseminate information and tools to increase the understanding of sustainability and its relevance to higher education stakeholders; (3) support and enable higher education to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to adapt to the impacts of global climate disruption; (4) lead the transformation of educational practices (including the curriculum) to ensure that all students acquire the knowledge, skills, and dispositions to meet sustainability challenges; and (5) lead the assessment and reporting of metrics of sustainably in higher education for the purpose of driving improvements in sustainable practices and education through its Sustainability Tracking, Assessment, and Rating System (STARS) (Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, 2011c).

The AASHE has six ways of implementing its activities to accomplish its goal in higher education. These include (1) making sustainable practices the norm within higher education; (2) facilitating institutional efforts to integrate sustainability into teaching, research, operations, and public engagement; (3) disseminating knowledge and best practices and promote resource sharing; (4) supporting all sectors of campus in achieving sustainability goals; (5) increasing collaboration among individuals, institutions, and external partners to speed the adoption of sustainability practices; and (6) influencing education policy so that sustainability is a focus at local, state and national levels. These are exemplary ideals that institutions can personally use to gauge their sustainability initiatives and programs (Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, 2011c). The AASHE's work is recognized by the United States Government, and on November 13, 2009, the AASHE was awarded the U. S. Green Building Council (USGBC) Leadership in Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) Sector Award (Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, 2011a).

The Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS): The Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System is a transparent, self-reporting framework for colleges and universities to gauge relative progress toward sustainability. STARS was developed by the AASHE with participation from the higher education community, and it has several goals or functions: (1) provide a framework for understanding sustainability in all sectors of higher education, (2) enable meaningful comparisons over time and across institutions using a common set of measurements developed with broad participation from the campus sustainability community, (3) create incentives for continual improvement toward sustainability, (4) facilitate information sharing about higher education sustainability practices and performance, and (5) build a stronger, more diverse campus sustainability community (Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, 2011b).

According to the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (2011b), the STARS framework is intended to engage and recognize the full spectrum of colleges and universities in the United States and Canada--from community colleges to research universities, and from institutions just starting their sustainability programs to long-time campus sustainability leaders. STARS encompasses long-term sustainability goals for already high-achieving institutions as well as entry points of recognition for institutions that are taking first steps toward sustainability.

Association of University Leaders for a Sustainable Future (ULSF): The Association of University Leaders for a Sustainable Future states its mission as supporting sustainability as a critical focus of teaching, research, operations, and outreach at colleges and universities worldwide through publications, research, and assessment (Association of University Leaders for a Sustainable Future, 2011). Similar to the AASHE, the ULSF promotes sustainability in higher education. The ULSF consists of senior fellows, a director, and colleagues who are actively engaged in ongoing projects, research, and consulting in support of sustainability in higher education as well as primary and secondary education. The organization focuses its current works in six areas: (1) research and consulting on effective strategies for "greening" institutional practices, policies, and teaching; (2) organizational change and social learning for sustainability; (3) implementation of the Talloires Declaration and other institutional commitments to green the campus and cut greenhouse gas emissions; (4) campus sustainability assessment; (5) implementation of humane and sustainable food systems; and (6) research and consulting on implementing the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable, and Development and creating and evaluating UN Regional Centers of Excellence (Association of University Leaders for a Sustainable Future, 2011).

The U.S. Partnership for Education for Sustainable Development: The U.S. Partnership for Education for Sustainable Development (called the U.S. Partnership for short) consists of individuals, organizations, and institutions in the United States dedicated to education for sustainable development (ESD). The partnership acts as a convener, catalyst, and communicator working across all sectors of U.S. society to promote sustainable development (U.S. Partnership for Education for Sustainable Development, 2011). The vision of U.S. Partnership is to fully integrate sustainable development into education and learning in the United States. Its mission is to leverage the UN Decade to foster education for sustainable development in the United States.

The UN Decade refers to the Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2005-2014) and works to contribute to enabling citizens to face the challenges of the present and future and leaders to make relevant decisions for a viable world (UNESCO, 2005). The UN Decade of Sustainable Development is designed to educate so as to create actors or individuals who will (1) have acquired various skills (critical and creative thinking, communication, conflict management and problem solving strategies, project assessment) to take an active part in and contribute to the life of society, (2) be respectful of the Earth and life in all its diversity, and (3) be committed to promoting democracy in a society without exclusion and where peace prevails (UNESCO, 2011, p. 1). Accomplishing this requires three major considerations: (1) taking into account education in sustainable development plans, (2) creating public awareness of the importance of sustainable development, and (3) having regular and substantial coverage of sustainable development issues in the media (UNESCO, 2011, p. 1).

Second Nature (Education for Sustainability): Second Nature is a Commonwealth of Massachusetts nonprofit public benefit corporation, and a tax-exempt charitable organization whose mission is to create a sustainable society by transforming higher education. We accelerate movement toward a sustainable future by serving and supporting senior college and university leaders in making healthy, just, and sustainable living the foundation of all learning and practice in higher education (Second Nature, 2011a). Second Nature's vision is one of envisioning and creating a world where all members of humankind are healthy, live in socially vibrant and culturally diverse communities, have personal and economic security, and fully participate in governance of society, and where the world's life support system is biologically diverse and sustainable (Second Nature, 2011b).

Second Nature engages several strategies and partnership institutions to accomplish its mission and live up to its utopian vision. The organization works to promote a learning environment that provides the awareness, knowledge, skills, and values to achieve this vision and to create a future where current and future generations achieve good health, economic security, social fairness, and stability, while restoring and sustaining the Earth's life support systems (Second Nature, 2011b, p. 1). Second Nature has been working with thousands of faculty members and administrators at more than 500 colleges and universities for the last two decades to help make the principles of sustainability fundamental to every aspect of higher education (Second Nature, 2011b). The organization describes its work with colleges and universities or in higher education arena to accomplish its vision as follows:

  Our work toward this vision embraces interdisciplinary
  learning and includes the community as a whole.
  By reinforcing the concept that the educational
  experience of all students must be aligned with the
  principles of sustainability, we help ensure
  that the content of learning embraces interdisciplinary
  systems thinking to address environmentally sustainable
  action on local, regional and global scales over
  short-, medium- and inter-generational
  time periods. Through this way of learning,
  education comes to have the same "lateral rigor"
  across the disciplines as it has
  "vertical rigor" within the disciplines (p. 1).

Second Nature strongly believes that in order for society to move in a sustainable direction, higher education must develop a new framework in which the sector and individual institutions operate as a fully integrated communities that teach, research, and model social and ecological sustainability (Second Nature, 2011b).

Designing and Implementing Sustainability Education and Programs

Educational institutions should prepare students to become knowledgeable citizens, and this cannot occur without teaching them about the interdependence of people and environment, and how our actions and activities affect our survival and progress as related to sustainability issues. In fact, one purpose of education throughout U.S. history from Jefferson to Dewey and beyond has been the creation of knowledgeable citizens in the broadest sense of the world (Andrzejewski & Alessio, 1999). This is agreed on by Calder and Dautremont-Smith (2009), as they argue that fostering a more sustainable world is the most logical outcome of the higher education endeavor.

From the perspective of U.S. educational challenge, Andrzejewski and Alessio (1999) have speculated on the reasons for lack of sustainability and citizenship education issues:

  Issues of global justice, environment, survival, human rights and
  citizenship are, for the most part, not major components of the
  curriculum in PK-12 schools and are still given short shrift in
  higher education institutions. They are rarely addressed by
  administrators, school boards or trustees, teacher or
  faculty unions, state legislators, proposals for educational
  reform, nor even the Congress of the United States, at least
  in relation to education. Where global issues are addressed,
  they are often approached through the biased perspectives
  of ethnocentrism, national chauvinism, and global economic
  dominance (p. 1).

The authors believe there are two major approaches that colleges and universities as well as other educational institutions can take in embracing and implementing sustainability as part of their curricula. These approaches are not new in terms of instructional and pedagogical methods or strategies to new or emerging program design and implementation. They are the "Across the Curriculum" and the "Full-Program" approaches, which are described in the recommendations below.

  A truly sustainable college or university would emphasize these
  concepts in its curriculum and research, preparing students to
  contribute as working citizens to an environmentally healthy
  and equitable society. The institution would function as a
  sustainable community, embodying responsible consumption of energy,
  water, and food, and supporting sustainable development in its local
  community and region (p. 1).

Calder and Dautremont-Smith (2009) agree with this by arguing that "A university fully committed to sustainability emphasizes an interdisciplinary and holistic approach to fostering the knowledge, skills, and attitudes needed to build a more sustainable world for present and future generations" (p. 93). Truly sustainable colleges and universities fully understand the importance of sustainability to individual and societal well-being as well as to environmental health and prosperity and make it their social responsibility to teach sustainability as an indispensable philosophy for living, progress, and survival. The ULSF's vision above represents the need for existing university communities to transform and transition themselves into sustainable communities.

Sustainability across the Curriculum

Sustainability across the Curriculum is an effort similar to Ethics across the Curriculum, which many colleges and universities adapted during the rapidly deteriorating corporate ethics of two decades, 1990-2000 and 2000-2010, in which 'Corporate America' and the rest of the world experienced some of the greatest corporate scandals, executive misconducts, and collapses in organizational social responsibility and trust. Ethics across the Curriculum is used by many institutions to ensure students from differing and separate majors all acquire some understanding and knowledge of ethics, morality, and social responsibility, especially as related to application in their fields of study or professional pursuits.

Similarly, sustainability can be implemented and adapted into existing college and university curricula by becoming a mandated requirement across academic schools and their majors. For example, universities and colleges recognizing the importance of sustainability can mandate that all degree-seeking students take at least one or two courses on sustainability. Perhaps a foundation course called "Sustainability Practices and Principles" could be taught across academic schools and curriculum majors. The objectives of Sustainability Practices and Principles (SPP) would include the following: (1) providing students with basic understanding of the concept of sustainability; (2) understanding sustainability and its importance to human and environment; (3) describing and explaining examples of sustainable practices in operations management across various industries, and business in general; (4) citing examples of sustainability practices in personal and community settings; (5) developing an appreciation of the challenges and rewards of sustainability and sustainability education; and (6) understanding the history and development of sustainable practices. West Chester University of Pennsylvania is an example of an institution that offers more than two dozen courses related to sustainability across several programs and departments.

Having a sustainability course across the curriculum and majors in a college and university will ensure students and graduates are exposed to the basic idea of sustainability, and this can make a big difference in the minds and hearts of students. Sustainability is a naturally interesting subject, and when taught as an active and concurrent evolving philosophy, it engages students' sense of social responsibility and broadens their understanding of their roles in nature and society. The benefits of teaching Sustainability across the Curriculum are enormous for colleges and universities. Apart from generating additional income, it will lead to the production of better graduates with broader and more significant understanding of global trends and an awareness of the interdependent nature of things as they venture out into the world to become leaders and followers in various industries. Additionally, new ideas for research and scholarship can emerge that promote the reputation and well-being of institutions and increase their relationships with stakeholders in the community. They also can discover opportunities for partnership and access grants dedicated to sustainability and environmental awareness. The most significant benefit will be transforming the learning experiences of students as they become more aware of the importance of sustainability as related to long term survival.

Full Programs: Sustainability Programs

Many colleges and universities now are offering full-fledged sustainability programs including degrees and certificates. Some examples were provided above, including Bainbridge Graduate Institute (BGI), which offers an MBA as well as graduate and undergraduate certificates in Sustainable Business. West Chester University of Pennsylvania offers both a graduate and undergraduate certificate in Education for Sustainability as part of the professional and secondary education curriculum in its College of Education. Arizona State University (ASU) has a full-fledged School of Sustainability and Global Institute of Sustainability offering both undergraduate and graduate degrees in Sustainability. Perhaps, ASU's degrees in Sustainability can be regarded as the most complete in the entire nation as it offers five degrees, two at the undergraduate level: a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Sustainability, and a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Sustainability; and three degrees at the graduate level: a Master of Arts (M.A.) in Sustainability, a Master of Science (M.S.) in Sustainability, and a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Sustainability (Arizona State University, 2011). Additionally, ASU offers a Graduate Certificate in Sustainable Leadership. Only few schools go as far as offering Sustainability up to the doctoral level of studies. Thus, ASU can be considered way ahead of many colleges and schools in making sustainability a part of higher education curriculum as most universities and colleges offer only a bachelor's degree in Sustainability (a comprehensive list of these institutions can be found on the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education's Website).

Offering a full program in Sustainability not only adds diversity to the college or university curriculum but also meets an educational need existing in the global market as well as personal professional aspirations of students looking to work in the field. According to Berman (2009), college students now are flocking to sustainability degrees and careers. This is mainly because sustainability through the Green Economy is producing new and emerging financial and professional opportunities in a saturated labor market. Berman (2009) also notes students interested in pursuing a job in sustainability now can choose from a variety of "green" degree programs--evidenced by the numerous institutions offering programs in sustainability as demonstrated by a comprehensive list of almost 50 institutions offering bachelor's degree seen on AASHE's Website (Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, 2011d). Programs in sustainability studies and related programs in sustainable design, sustainable agriculture, sustainability education, and sustainable business are emerging at several schools around the country (Calder & Dautremont-Smith, 2009). These programs are contributing rapidly to the changing perspective and knowledge of sustainability that will bring about changes in businesses and communities.

Conclusion and Recommendations

The sustainability movement is relatively new and represents a leap forward in our understanding of our relationship with each other and our environment. Sustainability can be defined narrowly or broadly (Calder & Dautremont-Smith, 2009; Yanarella, Levine, & Lancaster, 2009), and encompasses a variety of programs, activities, and perspectives. Our differing perspectives on sustainability represents a small part of the challenges to sustainability education, while sustainability education itself represents a major obstacle in achieving sustainability as we either are ineffectively using available channels or are culturally resistant to sustainability education. Whatever the case may be, we have an imperative to promote sustainability not only because "a sustainable practice enhances the health of the systems upon which it depends by creating favorable conditions for it to thrive indefinitely" (Cloud, 2010, p. 168) but also because educating for sustainability is the right thing to do; it is ethical and a good business practice.

One important approach that today's colleges and universities can take in adapting sustainability philosophy into their culture and philosophy of education is to subscribe to and implement the Talloires Declaration, which was developed in 1990 at the international conference on sustainability in Talloires, France. The Talloires Declaration is the first official statement made by university administrators of a commitment to environmental sustainability in higher education (Association of University Leaders for a Sustainable Future, 2011b). According to the Association of University Leaders for a Sustainable Future (2011b):

  The Talloires Declaration (TD) is a ten-point action plan for
  incorporating sustainability and environmental literacy in
  teaching, research, operations and outreach at colleges and
  universities. It has been signed by over 350 university presidents
  and chancellors in over 40 countries (p. 1).

The process of becoming a Talloires Declaration member is simple and requires colleges and universities to begin by proposing to an existing "Green Campus Committee" or "Sustainability Task Force" that officially pursues this goal, developing articles and related publications, and having the president of the college or university sign the Declaration. Committees formulated for developing sustainability goals for subscribing to the Talloires Declaration must consist of at least three of the following institutional member groups: students, faculty, administration, and staff. Examples of institutions that have implemented successfully the Talloires Declaration's action plan for sustainability include Bowling Green State University, Ball State University, and the Australian National University. Table 1 shows the ten steps and the actions, activities, and programs that institutions pledging to and practicing sustainability under the Talloires Declaration must implement and adapt.

Table 1

The Talloires Declaration Action Plan: Activities and Programs

Action steps           Activities and
1. Increase awareness  Raise public,
of                     government,
                       foundation, and
environmentally        awareness; openly
sustainable            address urgent need
                       to move toward an
development            environmentally

2. Create an           Encourage all
institutional          universities to
culture                engage in
of sustainability      policy formation,
                       and information
                       exchange on
                       environment, and
                       development to move
                       toward global

3. Educate for         Establish programs
environmentally        to produce
                       expertise in
responsible            management,
citizenship            sustainable
                       and related

4. Foster              Create programs to
environmental          develop the
literacy               capability of
                       university faculty
for all                teach environmental
                       literacy to all
                       graduate, and

5. Practice            Set an example of
institutional          environmental
ecology                responsibility by
                       ecology policies
                       and practices of
                       recycling, waste
                       reduction, and
                       sound operations.

6. Involve all         Encourage
stakeholders           involvement of
                       foundations, and
                       industry in
                       policy formation,
                       and information
                       exchange in
                       development; Expand
                       work with community
                       organizations to
                       assist in finding
                       solutions to

7. Collaborate for     Develop
                       approaches to
interdisciplinary      initiatives,
approaches             operations, and
                       outreach activities
                       that support an

8. Enhance capacity    Establish
of primary             partnerships with
                       primary and
                       secondary schools
and secondary          help develop the
schools                capacity for
                       teaching about
                       environment, and

9. Broaden service     Work with national
and outreach           and international
nationally and         organizations to
internationally        promote a
                       university effort
                       toward a

10. Maintain the       Establish a
movement               Secretariat and a
                       steering committee
                       to continue this
                       momentum, and to
                       inform and support
                       each other's
                       efforts in
                       carrying out this
Source: Association of University Leaders for a Sustainable
Future (2011).

Achieving sustainability is not easy for institutions, and it is certainly even more difficult for government as other problems of politics and economics affect the amount of resources governments and nations can devote to sustainability initiatives and education. Institutions seeking to embrace and foster sustainable development must have strong platforms or foundations on which to base sustainability plans and programs. Michigan Energy Options (2011) provides three guiding pillars of sustainability: flourishing environment, vibrant community, and equitable economy. These three pillars can be the foundation as well as performance measurement variables that educational and other organizations use to guide their sustainability programs and progress. A flourishing environment demands paying attention to the physical and natural environment of living and nonliving things, and this requires a vibrant or actively involved and highly engaging and participative community of people who play their roles in promoting sustainability and can directly point to the personal and collective benefits and responsibilities. An equitable economy is created when all individuals in the flourishing environment and vibrant community are able to reap equitable benefits and advantages that are important to their survival and well-being while providing for the future.

Colleges and universities should see themselves as the most vital links and agents in promoting and advocating sustainability and in making education for sustainability and sustainability education part of their cultures. As micro-societies, they should seek to become true sustainable communities. In these settings, students can experience the great benefits intended for our planet as they become wiser and more caring with regard to their actions that affect living standards, quality of life, wildlife, the environment, peoples, and cultures. They should strive to become truly sustainable communities as described by the Center for Ecoliteracy (2011):

  A truly sustainable community is alive--fresh, vital, evolving,
  diverse, dynamic. It supports the health and quality of life of
  present and future generations while living within the limits
  of its social and natural systems. It recognizes the need for
  justice, and for physical, emotional, intellectual, cultural, and
  spiritual sustenance (p. 1).

These ideals practiced within educational-institutional settings provide the models for better choices, actions, and decisions in wider society, where our greater collective efforts have more far-reaching impact on the health and sustenance of our planet as well as contemporary and future well-being.


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Donovan A. McFarlane is Founder and Director of The Donovan Society LLC, in Florida, Visiting Professor of Management in the Keller Graduate School of Management at DeVry University South Florida Campus, and Professor of Business Administration and Business Research Methods at Frederick Taylor University, in Moraga, California.

Agueda G. Ogazon, Ed.D., is Assistant Professor of Business Administration and Management at St. Thomas University, in Florida.

Source Citation   (MLA 8th Edition)
McFarlane, Donovan A., and Agueda G. Ogazon. "The challenges of sustainability education." Journal of Multidisciplinary Research, vol. 3, no. 3, 2011, p. 81+. Expanded Academic ASAP, Accessed 23 May 2018.

Gale Document Number: GALE|A282525436